This month's "Golden Health" blog question comes from a GRRA supporter who wanted to know about how to combat their adopted Golden's excessive paw licking. Those of us with Goldens in our home unfortunately know this challenge well. Dr. Shepherd from North Roswell Vet Clinic is here to help us with suggestions.
First off, how to tell a bored dog vs. a dog that has allergies is key. When a dog has an OCD problem, they usually only lick or groom the front paws and NOT the back. Sometimes, it's just one foot. When you notice they are chewing and licking all four paws, that is usually an allergy problem.
Normal foot or paw grooming is probably one to two times per day. If an OCD problem is in play, sometimes these guys --- if they are non-stop on the grooming --- need to be seen by a Vet because they can create a wet area that cannot dry out and can get infected and create a bacterial dermatitis (hot spot). Redness in-between the pads can also be a sign of allergies.
If this does seem to be a boredom or OCD problem issue with your adopted Golden, then finding something to occupy their time or giving them something to do is your best bet. Longer walks, more time in the dog park, something to chew on, etc. are different ways to combat this.
If it seems to be allergies, the best thing to do is to get them to the Vet (Goldens are sadly notorious for allergy issues). Most of their allergies are inhalation, but unlike humans who show inhalation allergies with watery eyes, sneezing, etc. they show it in their skin in itching and scratching and chewing.
Most allergies have a threshold and it takes some juggling to figure out how to get them below that threshold that allows them to be more comfortable where they are not itching, scratching, and chewing themselves.
One thing that can help is changes in food. Selected protein diets are wonderful for this. Unfortunately, any selected protein diets that you can buy over the counter are not closely monitored. They are often made on the same assembly line as the regular foods. This is why the prescription brands are a much better way to go and those can only be purchased with a prescription from your Vet.
Food allergies for the dog come from the protein source not the grain source, so going "grain free" is a myth out there that many people fall for. Grain free does not help a food allergy problem.
Also, if it is a food allergy problem that foot licking is usually year round where as if it is an inhalation allergy, it tends to be more seasonal (spring and fall) and the foot chewing sometimes slows down in other seasons (even though there isn't much break in Georgia!).
Allergies are tough to combat and it is definitely a balancing act. The takeaway here is there is no cure --- there is only treatment.
Thanks for the helpful information, Dr. Shepherd! Do you have a "Golden Health" issue you are battling with your adopted Golden Retriever? Want to ask Dr. Shepherd from North Roswell Vet Clinic about a specific challenge you are currently facing? Please post your question here in the comments and we'll be glad to pass along for you. Happy Golden Health, everyone!